Abstract

Determination of the age of ivory is important for controlling illegal trafficking and the proper identification of ivory artifacts. Radiocarbon dating is the standard method of determining the age of ivories; however, it requires the destruction of a fragment of the sample. Raman spectroscopy is a nondestructive technique, and therefore can be used on artwork. Moreover, Raman measurements can be done using a portable system, and the data analysis can be performed on the spot once the groundwork is done. Ivories contain two primary components: collagen and bioapatite. Raman spectrum of ivory material is mainly a sum of the vibrational bands of these components. As collagen deteriorates with time, its Raman signal decreases; therefore, the ratio of collagen to bioapatite peaks is smaller in the older samples compared to the younger ones, providing a basis for sample dating. We have compared the results of Raman and radiocarbon measurements applied to a set of elephant ivory fragments and have successfully calibrated the Raman data set using radiocarbon measurements. We found that the Raman collagen to bioapatite peak ratios of the samples can be used as a metric to determine their age, providing a nondestructive technique to assess the age of ivory samples. We have also used singular value decomposition (SVD) to analyze the whole Raman spectra. We have observed clear separation between samples of different ages in the SVD component space. The samples also tended to align along the timeline diagonal in the correct order. The changes in multiple collagen and bioapatite peaks contribute to the differences in Raman spectra of ivory samples of different age.

© 2020 The Author(s)

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